Friday is the second day of the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference - an annual gathering in Washington, D.C. where members of the GOP meet to cement their ideology and try out potential presidential nominees for the coming years. Today Republican party leaders and celebrities will speak at the conference, including Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. Read background about the event here.
Refresh this page for live updates and behind-the-scenes looks throughout the day.
All times are in Eastern Standard Time.
ABC's Shushannah Walshe reports:
In his first public speech since losing the presidential election, a humbled Mitt Romney addressed a crowd of conservatives who supported his 2012 campaign and told them his loss "prepared" them for "larger victories" ahead.
Just over four months since his defeat, he said it was up to the group at the conservative confab to "make sure that we learn from my mistakes… and from our mistakes, so that we can win the victories this people and this nation depend upon." Romney told the supportive crowd at CPAC that he "left the race disappointed."
The former GOP nominee has kept a low profile since his loss in November and said he is "sorry that I will not be your president," but he assured the group of conservatives he will be their "co-worker and I will work shoulder to shoulder with you."
"Each of us in our own way will have to step up and meet our responsibility," Romney, dressed in a blue tie, said. "In the end, we will win just as we have won before, and for the same reason: because our cause is right…and just."
ABC's Shushannah Walshe went behind the scenes at CPAC asking those in the know five important questions. The first was on an issue that has advocates on both sides of the aisle fired up: should the GOP weigh in on immigration reform legislation?
Overwhelmingly, conservatives said they should.
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said "Absolutely."
" And they should do it because of conservative principles. I don't agree with those who say we should embrace immigration, support immigration reform because we have to move to the center or water down our message. I think we have to reclaim this issue because we're conservative, and if we're for the free market, if we're for the family we should be for immigration reform," Aguilar told Walshe.
Republican donor and philanthropist Foster Friess said there's a part of immigration reform he could jump on board with.
"I think the number one thing Republicans can get behind is one thing- guest worker permits," Friess told Walshe Thursday. "Forget about all the other issues, what you do with the people here and when you send them back. Everyone pretty well agrees if you catch someone at 6 a.m. in the morning, you send them back at 9 a.m. Then the question becomes, what if you catch them a year later or two years later?
"I think if you minimize those issues and talk on one single issue - like Clinton said 'it's the economy, stupid.' If we get guest worker permits as the number one key issue that will drive the inclination of people to embrace our point of view, where the Democrats will oppose that very, very viciously."
For Steve Bannon, Executive Chairman of the Breitbart New Network, the answer was a conditional yes.
"As long as it's sensible," Bannon said. "Look, conservatives and Republicans we have to sort out the immigration issue in our country. It's about how we sort it out."
Read what others said on the immigration question and more issues from Walshe here.
ABC News' Michael Falcone reports:
A pro-Hillary Clinton group, Ready for Hillary, formed to encourage the former Secretary of State and first lady to run for president in 2016, lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for his comments at CPAC earlier today.
"Don't tell me Democrats are the party of the future, when their presidential ticket for 2016 is shaping up to look like a rerun of the Golden Girls," McConnell said, referring to Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden.
Ready for Hillary Communications Director Seth Bringman called the line "blatant sexism."
"Senator McConnell's comments mark the kickoff of a despicable, sexist attack on Hillary that we have expected for a long time," Bringman said in a statement. "McConnell and many of his fellow Republicans are the ones who want to take women's rights back to decades before the Golden Girls first aired. They know that Hillary is the most qualified candidate - of any age or gender - and that she would be the most effective president. They can't have a debate about the issues or the qualifications of their own candidates, so they resort to blatant sexism. It needs to stop here and now."
2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at CPAC this afternoon. Click the photo to see his prepared remarks.
Earlier this morning American businessman Donald Trump took on another American icon at CPAC in his insistence that America needs to increase its manufacturing industry.
"We have to take back our jobs from China," Trump said. "When Apple talks about Apple building all of this stuff and we're all so proud of Apple, they build virtually a hundred percent of their product in China. So China should be more proud of Apple than we are, to be totally honest with you."
Trump also confessed to buying his own electronics from overseas manufacturers.
"I buy all my televisions from South Korea, I'm sorry to say. I just ordered 3,000 units, 3,000 televisions," Trump said. "We don't make them in our country anymore. I get criticized, 'Oh, why didn't you buy them here?' You can't buy them here. We don't make televisions in this country."
The reach of Trump's speech might have been limited by its spot in the early morning hours of the conference schedule for Friday. New York Magazine published photos showing Trump's audience mostly made up of empty chairs.
Most conservatives oppose same-sex marriage, but in the past few months some have come out in favor of lifting the ban that limits marriage to a man and a woman, most recently with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, voicing his support today. In light of Portman's announcement, ABC's Shushannah Walshe asked college students attending CPAC this year what their feelings were on same-sex marriage. Their answers reflected some of the division within the party.
Caitlin Baalke, 21 from Seattle Pacific University, said she was "pro gay marriage."
" I do have a lot of friends that just happen to be of different sexual orientations, and I find that government being involved in that sort of thing isn't really something that's really necessary," Baalke told Walshe. "I find there's bigger issues that the government should be dealing with, and when it comes down to your sexual preference or gender and that sort of thing it's really your own personal choice."
Kaylin Bugos, 20 of the University of Maryland, said she too had gay friends, but attributed her views on same-sex marriage to her conservative belief in small government.
" I think the government needs less involvement in people's lives and so they shouldn't really be involved in marriage. So it doesn't matter if I personally support or am against it. Government-wise I think it's fine," Bugos said. " I've had that opinion before I met anyone gay. Grew up in South Carolina and I had the same opinion there. That's how I feel."
But Patrick O'Neil, 20 of Northeastern University, believes legalizing same-sex marriage would overstep the federal government's bounds.
"Personally I believe that marriage is something that's between a man and a woman, and I don't believe that the government really has the right to change that, because marriage isn't really…a governmental institution," O'Neil told Walshe at CPAC Friday. "I don't think they have the right to really change what marriage is. I don't think that they have that power, because then that implies that they have the right to reach into other nongovernmental things and really change what they are and then it really loses definition, when you can call something whatever you want. But I do believe that civil unions, if states would elect to do them, would be fine, because that would be giving legal benefits to same-sex couples, treating them equally under the law."
Chris Schneeweiss, 21 and of Northeastern also voiced support for civil unions, taking issue with the word "marriage."
"I think that same-sex couples should have all the benefits and everything of marriage that heterosexual couples have, but I don't think you should call it marriage, because it takes on sort of a religious connotation," Schneeweiss said. "That you know challenges a lot of peoples' views of religion."
Emil Bruch thought the federal government should preserve its current stance but leave the door open for states to legalize same-sex marriage.
"I want to give states more power, therefore if the state decides to legalize same-sex marriage, they can do that," Bruch said. "But on the federal level, I agree that marriage is between a man and a woman."
ABC's Chris Good reports:
One of the weirder things about the nation's largest political conference is that a not insignificant number of people attend costumed.
They can be found milling about the crowd, posing for pictures, promoting various groups, and generally standing out amid the thousands of who've packed the halls of the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md., for this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual confab held in the D.C. area. Red ties are in abundance, as most attendees are dressed up in suits, blazers, loafers, dresses and heels.
But not everyone.
Read more about the creative costumes at CPAC from Good here.
In her introduction of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vowed to oppose President Obama's recommendations to expand Medicaid in her state.
"They're trying to grow and tell us that we have to bust our budgets and expand Medicaid," Haley told the audience at 2013 CPAC. "Not in South Carolina. As long as I am the governor of South Carolina, we will not expand Medicaid on President Obama's watch. We will not expand Medicaid ever, we are going to make sure that we take care of the people that we know best to take care, and we don't need Washington's help to do it."
Eight Republican governors, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, have broken with their party to support Medicaid expansion in their states.
ABC News' Arlette Saenz reports:
In his speech at CPAC, the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre mocked the vice president for his advice that women should fire a shotgun two times in the air if they are faced by an attacker and accused the vice president and the White House of having "lost their minds."
"The vice president of the United States also told women facing an attack to just empty their shotguns in the air," LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, said. "Honestly, have they lost their minds over at the White House? No doubt the violent predators would love to face a woman with a shotgun that's empty."
"You keep your advice, we'll keep our guns," LaPierre said to applause.
Biden doled out his shotgun advice last month in an online forum with "Parents" magazine when he encouraged people to "Buy a shotgun" to protect themselves, but LaPierre gave a recommendation of his own Friday about how a woman should fend off a potential rapist.
"The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a woman with a gun," LaPierre said.
Read more about LaPierre from Saenz here.
Someone you won't see at CPAC: Rob Portman.
The Ohio Republican announced Thursday night that he would be supporting gay marriage, something not likely to go over extremely well among the social conservatives at CPAC. On Thursday, Marco Rubio mentioned the issue and his opposition to gay marriage.
"Just because I believe that states should have the rights to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot," said Rubio in a call for mutual respect.
Here are 13 More Republicans You Won't See at CPAC .
ABC News' Michael Falcone reports:
Mitt Romney is poised to deliver his first major speech since losing the 2012 election today at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.
He offered a preview of his post-election thoughts during a recent interview on Fox News Sunday, but his remarks to the gathering (scheduled for 1 p.m. EST on Friday) will be his chance to set a tone for his future role within the Republican Party.
"As the guy who lost the election, I'm not in a position to tell everyone else how to win," Romney said on Fox, but added: "I'm not going to disappear."
It was at the same conference in 2008 that Romney dropped out of that year's Republican presidential primary. And last year it was at CPAC where he declared himself "a severely conservative Republican governor."
ABC's Chris Good reports:
Despite not being invited, a gay Republican group found its way into conservatives' biggest annual conference, anyway.
Much has been made of the Conservative Political Action Conference's (CPAC) decision not to invite GOProud, a prominent gay Republican group.
Along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, GOProud is one of the conference's two most notable absences caused by ideological differences with conference organizers.
GOProud found a venue there, nonetheless.
At a panel hosted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, entitled, "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet," GOProud's leadership and supporters voiced their discontent with the conservative movement - before a packed, standing-room-only conference room at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md., with a bar wheeled in to serve attendees after the gay politics talk was over.
"There are a few in our movement who just don't like gay people," said GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia. "And in 2013, that's just not OK."
Read more about last night's panel discussion from Chris Good here.
Awesome panel! Thank you to everyone who attended. The gays won #CPAC2013 tonight!
— JimmyLaSalvia (@JimmyLaSalvia) March 15, 2013
Curated by ABC's Sarah Parnass and Z. Byron Wolf